The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuiokuhen

Title: Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuiokuhen aka Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal
Genre: Drama/Action
Company: Studio DEEN
Format: 4 OVA
Dates: 20 Feb 1999 – 22 Sep 1999

Synopsis: Shinta, a young boy, is part of a company of slave traders. One day his group is ambushed and the ones around him are all slaughtered. If fate chose differently, Shinta would have been a goner. However, a savior arrives in the form of Sejiko Hiko. He takes in Shinta, who becomes Kenshin, and trains him in the art of Hiten-Mitsurugi Ryu. Years later he becomes a feared assassin known as the Hitokiri Battousai. On a seemingly normal walk home one night an assassin attacks him but he makes quick work of that assassin. However, he has one witness, a lady named Tomoe. Unbeknownst to him, he has just met the person who can either be his calming force…or his downfall…

The Highlights
Visuals: Mellow, but crisp.
Plot: Poignant and wonderful.
Ending: Unforgettable and emotional.
Music: Brilliant.

Time for some self-humiliation! When I was still a newbie I asked a lot of people “Is Rurouni Kenshin the series worth it?” In time, and a few mixed answers later, a few people along the way suggested the Tsuiokuhen OVA. A few hours later, I was amazed: Tsuiokuhen was a brilliant illustration of a darker side of, and a “prequel” to, the Kenshin story.

Tsuiokuhen is filled to the brim with artistic excellence in terms of visuals. The mellow but crisp visuals complement the dark yet poignant story, giving the anime a juxtaposing quality, which indeed does reflect the characters and the story. But the visuals do feel too awkward at times, with some scenes not having smooth transitions. The repeated use of CG and live-action cut-in’s can be blamed for this detrimental drawback.

The story is a fantastic telling of the beginnings of the Kenshin saga, involving portions of Kenshin’s life as the Hitokiri Battousai and a powerful narration as to the origins of his “cross-shaped scar.” The ending, after all that’s been learned of the characters and their motives, is simply unforgettable; your jaw will smash the floor with the dramatic conclusion. The raw emotion conveyed in the last few minutes is startling and effective, which can bring anyone to tears. Everything, from scenes to characters, is matched wonderfully with the music of Iwasaki Taku. Almost haunting and heartrending at times, it is expressive and emotional. It is an experience.

One of the most undeniably gruesome aspects of the anime is the amount of bloodshed. While this is not bloodshed a la Battle Royale, there is still a disgustingly significant amount. For example, there is quite a bit of blood shed right out of the gate in the opening few minutes. This can be an obvious turn off to many. While this may have symbolism, a man getting slashed is a man getting slashed, no two ways about it and there is no need to almost dice him up.

Tsuiokuhen is a brilliant anime for Rurouni Kenshin fans and all other anime fans alike. With its unforgettable conclusion and overall breathtaking quality, it will stun, shock, and amaze.

The Rating: 9

Reviewed by: Genkisakura

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